STAFF PERSON:                                                                  MARGARET DOHERTY

PLANNING COMMISSION:                                              MARCH 9, 2004

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS:                                              APRIL 14, 2004



SP-03-84 Special Permit for auto dealership and outdoor display of vehicles


Applicant’s proposal: The applicant wishes to construct a car dealership on 2.5 vacant acres on West Rio Road.  A concept plan is included as Attachment B.


Petition: Request for special use permit to allow a car dealership in accordance with Sections  and of the Zoning Ordinance which allows for  motor vehicle sales and any portion of outdoor storage, display and/or sales, which would be visible from an Entrance Corridor Street. The property, described as Tax Map 45 Parcels 100, 101 and 101B is zoned C-1, Commercial and EC, Entrance Corridor.   The site is located on West Rio Road (Route  631), approximately 250 feet east of the intersection of West Rio Road and Berkmar Drive on the north side of the street, in the Rio Magisterial District.   The Comprehensive Plan designates this property as Regional Service in Neighborhood One.


Character of the area: The adjacent parcel to the north is a mobile home park, zoned residential.  The properties directly east and west include commercial and office uses.  A portion of the property borders the back of an existing auto dealership (Colonnial), which fronts on Route 29.  The character of the area may be summarized as serving as a transition between the high intensity uses along Route 29 and the residential neighborhoods west of Berkmar Drive.


By-right use of the property: The property is zoned C-1, Commercial which permits a large number of retail sales and service uses, personal service uses, office and dwelling units.




Staff recommends that the Planning Commission not approve SP-03-84 because the character of the district will be significantly changed and because the use is not in harmony with the character of the district.




As stated above, this project includes two special permit requests:  auto dealership and outdoor storage and display.  Staff’s comments present an analysis of how the proposed use meets the goals and objectives of the Comprehensive Plan, and the Zoning Ordinance.  This report also contains the Architectural Review Board’s advisory comments.



Comprehensive Plan:


Entrance Corridor


Chapter 2 of the Comprehensive Plan, entitled Natural Resources and Cultural Assets sets goals for preserving the scenic resources that are recognized as being essential to the County’s character, economic vitality and quality of life.  The Entrance Corridor Overlay Districts were implemented to further the County’s efforts toward attaining the Comprehensive Plan objective of maintaining the visual integrity of important roadways.  The Architectural Review Board (ARB) addresses the aesthetic impacts of development on those roads by applying the County’s various design standards for development within the Entrance Corridor.  Because this site is adjacent to West Rio Road, an Entrance Corridor District, the ARB has reviewed the construction activity proposed with this request for conformity with the County’s adopted design guidelines, and by a vote of 4:0, hereby forwards the following recommendation to the commission:


The ARB cannot support the special use permit since it does not meet the ARB Guidelines, the development does not reflect the traditional architecture of the area, nor is motor vehicle sales an appropriate use in this area of offices and residences.  Should the Planning Commission choose to allow the special use permit, the ARB recommends the following conditions:


1.   Relocate the building closer to the EC.

2.   Limit the parking at the front of the site to a single row. Vehicles shall only be displayed/stored in areas behind the building, away from the EC.

3.   Limit building illumination to that which is necessary for safety and security.

4.   Limit the level of illumination of site lighting to eliminate negative impacts on the EC, to the satisfaction of the ARB.

5.   The site shall be landscaped to limit visibility of vehicles and the “sea of parking” effect, to the satisfaction of the ARB.

6.   Vehicles shall not be elevated anywhere on site.

7.   Preservation of the large shade trees is strongly encouraged or an alternative acceptable to the ARB must be shown.


Regarding the Conceptual Plan, the Board offered the following comments that should be addressed, in addition to the items included on the ARB preliminary site plan review checklist, with the applicant’s next submittal. Please note that the following comments are those that have been identified at this time.  Additional comments may be added or eliminated based on further review and changes to the plan.


1.   Relocate the proposed building closer to the EC and relocate the 5,900 SF vehicle display area behind the building.

2.      Limit parking at the front of the site to a single row.

3.      Provide spot elevations for the retaining wall along the EC.

4.   Regrade the 2:1 slope to a 3:1 slope.

5.   Indicate proposed materials for the retaining walls.

6.   Regarding the landscaping:

·    Revise the proposed layout and grading plan to retain the existing significant natural resources (i.e. large shade trees).

·    Provide street trees (3½” cal.) 35’ on-center with ornamental trees interspersed along the EC.

·    Specify evergreen screening shrubs along the EC at a planting height of 36”.

·    Locate screening shrubs at the top of the retaining wall at the front of the property.

·    Provide conifers along the east side of the parking areas to reduce visibility of parked cars from the EC.

·    Provide conifers, in addition to the shade trees, along the sloped area adjacent to the 11,000 SF vehicle display and storage area to help break up the “sea of parking”.

·    Provide additional landscaping, such as conifers and large shade trees, along the north property line to reduce the extended view of parked cars.

·    Provide a plant list with the preliminary landscape plan.

·    Provide landscaping along the side walls of the building to reduce the blankness.

7.   Provide complete lighting information, including a photometric plan and manufacturer’s cut sheets with all options identified for the chosen fixtures. Limit site illumination levels to eliminate negative impacts on the EC. Limit building illumination to that which is necessary for safety and security. Show all proposed exterior lights, including wall lights, ground-mounted lights, lights within the entry porch, etc.

8.   Complete information on all proposed signage should be included with the site plan submittal. Clearly indicate intended sign locations on the building elevations. Sign locations must be compatible with the architecture. Wall signs shall maintain a 6” blank border around the perimeter of the sign band. Consider external illumination for building and site signage.

9.   Provide all material and color samples.

10. Show all proposed accessory structures and equipment on the plan. Show how visibility of these items will be eliminated from the EC.

11. Revise the window treatment on the sides of the building to reduce the horizontal nature of the windows and to improve the coordination with the front windows.

12. Revise the design of the building so the front pediment meets the ridge.

13. Provide site sections to clarify the visibility of vehicles on site from the EC.


Land Use Plan


The subject property is designated Regional Service on the Land Use Plan Map and is within Neighborhood One.  There are no specific recommendations from the Comprehensive Plan, relative to this property.


Neighborhood Model


The following analysis addresses conformity with the twelve principles of the Neighborhood Model:



Pedestrian Orientation


A sidewalk is shown along the frontage on sheet A3 of the concept plan and along the front of the building.  This principle has been met.


Neighborhood Friendly Streets and Paths


Not Applicable. 




The concept plan ncludes a shared entrance with the parcel to the west, and a possible connection through the parking area in the front to the parcel to the east, although it is not wide enough to accommodate two-way traffic.  With slight alteration, this principle could be met.


Parks and Open Space


Not Applicable.


Neighborhood Centers


Not Applicable.


Buildings and Spaces of Human Scale


See ARB comments above.



Relegated Parking


Too much parking is shown along Rio Road, between the building and the street.  The ARB recommends limiting the parking at the front of the site to a single row. Further, vehicles shall only be displayed/stored in areas behind the building, away from the Entrance Corridor.  This principle has not been met.


Mixture of Uses



The proposal is for a single use, which is acceptable for a site this small located within a context of a mix of uses. 


Mix/ Housing Types


Not Applicable.




Not Applicable.


Site Planning that Respects Terrain


The concept plan shows the site improvements terracing down the hill, utilizing the grade.  If the resulting grades are no more than 3:1 than this principle will be met.


Clear Boundaries w/ Rural Areas



Not Applicable.


Zoning Ordinance Review


Special Permit for Outdoor Display


The Planning Department relies entirely on the Architectural Review Board’s ‘advisory comments’ for review of outdoor sales and display.  Their comments were provided on page 2 of this report.


Special Permit for Vehicle Sales


Pursuant to Section, of the Zoning Ordinance, Special Use Permits:  The board of supervisors hereby reserves unto itself the right to issue all special use permits permitted hereunder.  Special use permits for uses as provided in this ordinance may be issued upon a finding by the board of supervisors that such use will not be of substantial detriment to adjacent property,


At this location, an auto dealership may be of substantial detriment to the existing uses on adjacent property.  The properties to the north and west include residential uses.  The properties directly east and west include commercial and office uses. An auto dealership requires truck traffic, lighted parking lots and many vehicle trips, which will have negative impacts on the adjacent residential and office uses.  There is an existing building supply use located on the other side of the street, which has some similarities to this use in terms of truck traffic and outdoor display. However, that use is not adjacent residential, the inventory is less visible and the hours of operation do not impact residents.   Colonial Auto is also adjacent, although it is oriented towards Route 29. Staff believes there are locations within the development area, which are suitable for car dealerships, specifically along Route 29 and Route 250, where the impacts associated with a car dealership will not be of detriment to adjacent uses.  This is not one of those areas.


that the character of the district will not be changed thereby


The character of the district is a transition area from the intensive commercial activity along Route 29 to the neighborhood service, office and residential neighborhoods along Berkmar Drive.   Extending the high intensity uses found on Route 29 west into this neighborhood is viewed as a significant change in the character of the district.

This portion of West Rio Road consists mostly of a mix of office, service and retail uses generally of a smaller scale.  Existing residential uses are also located in this area.   As part of the upcoming Northern Urban Area neighborhood planning effort these residential uses may be encouraged to remain and/or expand to allow for a greater mix of uses in the neighborhood.  Staff does not recommend introducing a high intensity use into the area prior to the neighborhood planning effort.


and that such use will be in harmony with the purpose and intent of this ordinance,


The purpose and intent of the Zoning Ordinance, as expressed in Section 1.4 is to be in accord with and to implement the Comprehensive Plan.  The ordinance is intended to improve public health, safety, convenience and welfare of citizens of the county and to plan for the future development of communities to the end that . . . residential areas be provided with healthy surroundings for family life.


It is staff’s opinion that an auto dealership will have a negative impact on the residential and commercial/office neighborhoods to the north and west.  Increased tractor-trailor truck traffic on West Rio Road and potentially Berkmar Drive is viewed as a negative for the existing area.  Also, the precedent would be set for the high intensity uses along Route 29 to creep into the Berkmar Drive neighborhoods.


with the uses permitted by right in the district,


Uses permitted by right in the district include a large variety of retail shops, services and public establishments, etc.  An auto dealership would be in harmony with some of  the uses permitted by-right.  However, there are uses permitted by right that would not be in harmony with an auto dealership, such as dwellings, public uses, medical center, nurseries, and day care centers.  The existing uses in the area have developed residentially and commercially.  The commercial uses have developed at a lower intensity, such that the auto dealership is not in harmony with existing uses and the likely uses.


with additional regulations provided in section 5.0 of this ordinance,


There are no additional regulations provided in section 5.0 of this ordinance related to vehicle sales.


and with the public health, safety and general welfare.


Generally, it is staff’s opinion that an auto dealership at this location does not further the public health, safety and general welfare of the residents of Albemarle County.  It will change the character of the area by introducing a use primarily found on Route 29, which is characterized by heavy traffic, late operating hours, and large lighted parking lots, into a neighborhood of commercial and residential uses, which is meant to provide a transition into the residential area to the west.


Concept Plan


The concept plan was sent to the Site Review Committee for comments.  The comments are attached and were forwarded to the applicant in January, but no response was received.  It is staff’s understanding that the applicant chose to not respond to these comments, until the commission made a recommendation on the special permits.  Following is a list of the most significant issues raised, which will need to be addressed, if the special permits are recommended for approval:




·        This site drains to an existing regional stormwater management facility between the self-storage site and Colonial Auto on Rt. 29.  A pro-rata share for the cost of that facility will need to be paid before site plan approval.  This may address only some of the stormwater management requirements for the site, as the basin was designed only to address the 10 year storm flow, in compliance with the Zoning Ordinance at the time the basin was constructed.  Since the adoption of the Water Protection Ordinance, additional requirements for the 2 year storm, and for water quality have been added.  These may need to be addressed on-site.  Preferably, this issue should be resolved, and conceptual plans provided if necessary, prior to approval of the special use permit.  Please contact Jack Kelsey, or David Hirschman for specifics regarding the regional basin; and


·        Permission for off-site work at the entrance travelway will need to be provided.




·        The setback adjacent to Tax Map 45-173 is not being met.  The setback is 20 feet and includes a 20 foot undisturbed buffer.  The undisturbed buffer can be modified by the Planning Commission but the setback cannot be reduced.  These requirements will substantially alter the design at the rear of the property; and


·        No area for the loading or unloading of vehicles is shown.  In order to insure that this use can be adequately accommodated on this property without impacting adjacent property or the public road the applicant should delineate a loading/unloading area and this should be analyzed to insure adequate design.




The proposed concept plan could be altered significantly to meet the design principles of the Architectural Review Board and the neighborhood model.  Two outstanding issues remain with the concept plan.  The issues relate to commercial setbacks and stormwater management.  Even if these items were able to be resolved prior to a recommendation for approval of the special permit, staff believes the special permit should not be approved.





Staff recommends that the Planning Commission not approve SP-03-84 for the above referenced reasons.  If the Commission, however, believes the use is appropriate at this location, the following issues should be resolved prior to a recommendation for approval:


1.      Redesign in accordance with the recommendations of the Architectural Review Board; and


2.      Resolution of outstanding zoning and engineering issues.




Attachment A               Locator Map

Attachment B               Concept Plan

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